6 Tips To Survive Your Spring Allergies

May 5, 2015

spring allergies

The spring allergy season is officially underway, with many in the mainstream media proclaiming a “pollen vortex” or “pollen tsunami” imminent due to the particularly harsh winter throughout most of the US. Whether or not this is the case remains to be seen, but every year many do suffer ill effects due to the changes in temperature and the flowery goodness that comes with them. Here are some tips to help you make it through allergy season, whether you are a longtime hay fever sufferer or experiencing congestion in the spring for the first time.

1. Is it really allergies?

You might think you are allergic to the ragweed and pollen in your yard or garden, but perhaps you just have a garden-variety cold or virus. One of the ways to tell the difference between the two is to ask: has this happened to you before at this time of year? Where were you/what were you doing? If your symptoms worsen after outdoor activity and recur every spring, chances are it’s truly allergies. But if this is a new thing for you, perhaps it may just be a cold. Top allergists say that if it lasts for more than a week, your eyes, ears, and mouth itch, if the mucus is thin and clear, and if the symptoms exacerbate with outdoor activity, you may be suffering from allergies. But consult your physician and/or health provider for a true diagnosis.

If you do narrow it down to allergies, you still have to figure out the exact culprit. People can develop allergies to tree pollen, ragweed, grass, and a variety of other outdoor grasses; mold, however, can be found both outside and inside. It’s important to try to ascertain the cause because the actions can vary widely. For example, if your root allergen is pollen, it’s advised to keep the windows closed during the high pollen season. But if your allergy is more to dust and mold, it’s suggested to keep the windows open and the house well ventilated to the outside. Consult a traditional or alternative medical practitioner to assist you in finding out the root causes of your symptoms.

2. Treat your symptoms early.

Medical professionals recommend getting a headstart on treating seasonal allergies as medications are best able to work when the nasal passages and sinuses are not already inflamed. And the same medication may not always work from year to year, so you may need to try a number of different meds in order to find the one that works for you.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, MD, medical director of the Allergy and Asthma Care Center of New York, recommends matching the over-the-counter medication to the symptoms. If your main complaints are nasal congestion, sneezing, and a runny nose, he advises using a nasal spray like azelastine (Astelin). (However, he also warns patients to stop using nasal decongestant sprays after five days, since the spray irritates the lining of the nose and can cause exacerbated symptoms including a rebound runny nose.) If allergies typically make you feel itchy, try non-sedating oral antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), or cetirizine (Zyrtec). If your allergies make it hard to sleep, take Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton which are 100% sedative antihistamines.

If your allergies are really bad, consider scheduling an appointment with an allergist who can prescribe longer-lasting meds with less drowsy effects. An allergist can help you narrow down the cause of your symptoms and, if necessary, provide immunotherapy to perhaps find permanent relief.

3. Rinse the nasal passages with saline.

The high majority of experts recommend a saline nasal wash daily during pollen season. Salt water rinsing clears and cleans the allergens from your nasal passages, and reduces inflammation. You can use a non-pharmaceutical saline spray (just salt and water), or the more advanced Neti pot to help clear allergens from your passages. A Neti pot (or nasal irrigation pot) allows you to pour liquid in one nostril, through your nose, and out the other nostril while breathing through your mouth. The process can be clumsy for beginners, but once you get the hang of it practitioners become evangelists of the procedure. Repeat once or twice a day to alleviate symptoms, and make sure you use distilled or boiled tap water (cooled down so as not to burn your nasal cavity). For a complete list of guidelines to safely use a Neti pot, visit the FDA’s website.

4. Consider alternative medicine and treatments.

Over-the-counter medications with their side effects can still leave many wanting for symptom relief. Many people report effective relief of their seasonal allergies with such diverse treatments as yoga, acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic adjustment, and natural remedies such as cayenne pepper and green tea (advocated even by Dr. Bassett). A lesser known non-invasive treatment called NMT (neuromodulation technique) has shown great promise in treating allergies and other conditions. Whatever treatment you decide to seek, the guidance of trained professionals in all of these fields can be invaluable. You will find a wealth of information online, and, as in educating yourself about anything, with some research and discernment you can accumulate a number of trusted sources.

5. Limit pollen exposure.

If you’ve narrowed the cause down to pollen, there are definitely ways you can limit your exposure to the nasty yellow stuff. Keep the windows closed at home, wear sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat to keep it off your hair/out of your eyes, and avoid the outdoors at midday when pollen levels are the highest. Check the local pollen counts through your local news or at Weather.com; you may want to exercise indoors when levels are at their highest. When you arrive home, make sure to remove your outside clothing, leave the shoes by the door, and take a shower after being outside (washing your hair and body). If symptoms are really awful, consider wearing an N95 surgical mask while outside during pollen season.

6. Take good care of yourself.

Allergists universally agree that getting adequate sleep, avoiding and/or managing stress effectively, getting plenty of exercise, and a healthy diet can go a long way in managing seasonal allergies. Since allergies are an immune response, strengthening the immune system will go a long away into making sure the response isn’t as drastic as it might be. Your body will still produce antibodies to the allergens, but your “trigger point” for the symptoms will be higher. And the best way to strengthen the immune system is to practice excellent self-care: eat right, exercise, sleep well, and give yourself a break. This can be easier said than done, but you are worth it!

Whether it’s a medical emergency or simply preventive health care, Alliance for Affordable Services member benefits can help you get the most for your health care dollar. Alliance members can save on allergy medications with the CVS ExtraCare card which gives you 20% off at every CVS nationwide. Members also have 24/7 phone access to a network of physicians who can provide diagnostic advice, write short-term prescriptions, and recommend treatment wherever you might be. For more information, learn more about Alliance Direct Benefits.

This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is intended for reference only, not personalized advice, and should not be treated as such. For all medical conditions and decisions, please consult your physician or trained medical practitioner.